Legion gets $55K from Film Festival to repair 78-year-old hall

Posted 8/7/19

The American Legion in Port Townsend has already begun long overdue repairs on its decades-old building, thanks to contributions channeled through the Port Townsend Film Festival.

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Legion gets $55K from Film Festival to repair 78-year-old hall

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The American Legion in Port Townsend has already begun long overdue repairs on its decades-old building, thanks to contributions channeled through the Port Townsend Film Festival.

The Film Festival recently deliveredmore than $55,000, the full amount needed to upgrade the American Legion hall with new insulation, new doors, a permanent new sound-proofing acoustical treatment for the walls, and fresh paint, which allowed work to commence in July.

The building, on the corner of Monroe and Water streets, was built by the U.S. military in just two months in 1941, as a United Service Organizations dance hall for young soldiers leaving for World War II. The Legion purchased the building in 1946.

Because the Film Festival is one of many organizations who rent the hall once a year, it took the lead in helping the Legion raise $50,000 for the organization’s 100th birthday.

The Legion was founded in the wake of the first World War, and commemorated its 100th anniversary this July.

“The least we can do for the Legion is rally the community to donate for this upgrade, which will benefit everyone,” said Janette Force, executive director of the Port Townsend Film Festival, whose goal was to have the money in hand by the Fourth of July, so the contractor could begin the roughly month-long project.

“They’ve struggled for years to pay the heating bills for the uninsulated building,” said Jan Halliday, fundraiser for the Port Townsend Film Festival. “With no windows, the hall heats up almost unbearably in summer during events, and during the winter, the heating bill is astronomical. And with 32-foot-high ceilings, plus uninsulated walls and wood floors, sound bounces all over the room, and can be deafening when the hall is filled with people.”

Force explained that, for the three-day film festival, she and her fellow festival organizers figured out countermeasures for the Legion hall’s conditions.

“We mitigated the echo by stringing up black, fireproofed padded blankets, wall to wall,” Force said. “It works pretty well in a dark theater, and we’ve left them up after our festival for other community events, but they are gloomy if, say, someone is planning a wedding reception there.”

Halliday described the former USO dance hall as “a community embrace” of its military members.

“Now our veterans keep giving to this community tenfold, just by keeping the building open,” Halliday said. “They offer their hall at reasonable rates for events and large meetings, and the basement of the building has been remodeled with bathrooms, a kitchen and beds as a winter homeless shelter, through a contract with OlyCAP.”

The building upgrade got underway this year under Post Cmdr. Charles Thomas, financial officer Andy Okinczyc and club manager Bob Saring, whose first project was to sand and seal the floors, which turned out to be solid maple.

Given the 72 donors who contributed to the American Legion through the Port Townsend Film Festival, with donations ranging from $10 to $21,000, Halliday emphasized, “These are not our generous contributions. They are the contributions of donors who specifically earmarked the American Legion.”

Because the Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it affords donors full tax deduction benefits.

Halliday explained that the Film Festival advanced the American Legion hall improvement fund $25,000 from the festival’s own bank account before it started receiving outside donations, so the contractor could purchase materials for the job in a timely fashion.

“We advanced the money fully trusting that donors would step up with the full amount required to insulate the walls, install Armstrong sound boards for acoustical improvement, purchase new soundproof doors between the bar and hall, and paint the interior,” Halliday said. “This money was raised in less than three weeks, which simply means that the public thought the project was a good idea and wanted to help fund it.”

Halliday assured donors she uses “sophisticated software” to record donations and ensure tax letters are issued, plus bookkeeping services that make sure 100% of the money donated to this project is given to the American Legion to pay for it.

“The festival took no administrative fee, and I volunteered my free time in June, between festivals, to do this work,” Halliday said. “The festival is community driven, not profit driven.”

Your donation, designated for the American Legion project, can be made at the Port Townsend Film Festival site at www.ptfilmfest.com or by calling 360-379-1333.

“If you’d like to give a donation in honor of someone in your family or a friend who served in the military, let us know,” Force said, “so the Legion can publicly acknowledge them.”

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